The power of your mind
By Russell Davis, Fertility Cognitive Hypnotherapist
“Daddy, Daddy tell me it again!” My friends’ son excitedly asked to hear the story again. I was feeling fine until I heard those words. Suddenly I felt sick, overwhelmed by a fear that I may never hear someone call me Daddy.
Infertility can be stressful, there is little doubt in this, but many people do not recognise the level of distress that can be involved. One study by Harvard Medical School demonstrated that the stress levels of women experiencing infertility were equivalent to those with AIDS, cancer and heart disease. And no-one tells them to “Just relax”!
I believe that too many couples go through fertility treatment unnecessarily and that the success rate of treatment is unnecessarily low, due to the care of the mind and emotions not being a factor in the journey. Let me explain in this article why.
My wife and I had 10 years of infertility. My wife was diagnosed with fertility problems as a teenager and we knew it was unlikely that we could have children. We thought we were OK with this, however, it turned out we were kidding ourselves to protect us from the pain, grief and despair.
After many years of healing herself more holistically, my wife’s fertility was restored. After a year or so of trying unsuccessfully we knew something else must be wrong. I had my first test and my results were so bad the doctor asked whether I’d ever been exposed to dangerous radiation! Talk about a kick in the teeth. It was like running a marathon only to be told we have to do it all again.
I tried all sorts of things to improve my results. Acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, keeping my mobile phone out of my pocket, baggy pants! After all that, a test five months later showed that my fertility had actually got slightly worse. Looking back I can see this was due to my fear of us not having a baby undermining all the good stuff I was doing.
BEYOND THE GRIEF
Meanwhile, my wife was grieving the possibility of not having children. She didn’t want to as she thought it meant giving up the journey. She didn’t want to be someone who had given up the possibility of being a mother. However, she found on the other side of the grief was a desire to continue the journey from a place of peace, without the fear and desperation.
I, however, began to recognise that I was avoiding my own feelings, that I had been doing so all my life. Eventually I too went on a journey of self-discovery. Facing and feeling my own pain, letting go of my limiting thoughts and beliefs (e.g. that having children was the only way I could experience fulfilment and happiness). It resulted in my starting taking control of my life, my own happiness and recognising that whatever happens, I can be happy and fulfilled.
POWER OF THOUGHT
Looking back we can see how much our minds played a role in the journey. If we knew then what we know now it would not have been a 10 year journey.
So, what prevents us from being at peace? It is a misunderstanding as to where our feelings come from. We generally think that our feelings result from our situation or circumstances. “My job is stressful” for example. However, the truth is that all our feelings stem from our thinking about ourselves and our circumstances. We live in the experience of our thinking.
Why is it that two people can go through the same circumstances and yet have very different experiences? It is because their perception of those circumstances, their thinking, is different.
As humans, we can get sucked into believing that it’s anything but our thinking. But this is simply because ‘thinking’ is a master of illusion. Just like watching a film you enjoy; at times you forget that it’s only a film. Our thinking creates the illusion that we are feeling our circumstances that is so plausible and believable that we fall for it, and as a result, we then have the feeling that comes from that thinking. Often we are not aware of the thinking but are feeling the resulting feeling.
So, why does thinking do this? It does it out of habit, a habit you learnt at a young age.
When we come into the world we have innate wellbeing. Look at little children, they just play in the moment. They are not worried about tomorrow or hung up about yesterday. They are being in the moment. We are human ‘beings’.
However, as we go through life, particularly when we are younger and our emotional intelligence is not fully formed, our thinking about situations can mean we start to think our sense of being OK is dependent on things outside of us. Perhaps things such as meeting parents or teachers expectations or what our peers think of us. We begin to look outside ourselves for a sense of being OK when it is within us, we are born with it. Even though we are no longer those children in those situations the thinking habits we pick up then can be the lens we look at ourselves and life unconsciously.
When we see the misunderstanding of what’s behind our experience in any moment we can then tune in to our innate wellbeing and know that whatever happens we will be OK, because it is not dependant on circumstances.
It doesn’t mean you don’t want to have a baby or that there is anything wrong with wanting to have a baby. There is nothing wrong with dreams, goals and aspirations. However, the moment we think our happiness and wellbeing is in some way dependent upon those things they move from being a choice to a need. That is when the fear and desperation can appear. Fear of it not happening, as subconsciously we are believing that we need it in order to be OK.
But a different possibility exists. We can shift from an ‘outside- in’ perspective to an ‘inside-out’ perspective. We can realise our innate wellbeing is within us and can stop looking for it through circumstances, relationships and other things. We can then let go of the stories our thinking tells us and re-connect with our innate wellbeing that knows whatever happens we will be OK.
So, how do you do this? For me, it is about a change in heart about what’s behind our human experience. Mind-body programmes also help us let go of habitual thinking and re-tune us to our innate well-being.
Harvard Medical School carried out a study comparing the success rates of patients undergoing IVF to those that participated in a mind-body programme alongside their IVF treatment. The success rate of those that did not participate in the program was 20% compared to a success rate of those that participated in the mind-body group of 52%.
The programme included stress management techniques, cognitive therapy approaches to deal with limiting thoughts and beliefs, group mutual support and developing healthy lifestyle habits.
The Learner Institute carried out a study where a group of volunteers visualised exercising their little finger for a few minutes a day over a period of 12 weeks. By the end of the 12- week study the muscle strength of the group visualising had improved by 35% and continued improving to 40% four weeks after the study and training had ended.
These are two of many studies demonstrating the link between the mind and body.
One way of letting go of our habitual thinking is the use of hypnosis. According to a study presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in 2004, hypnosis can effectively double the success of IVF treatments. The study was conducted to determine if hypnosis and relaxation techniques could improve the success IVF.
So, I do now have some calling me ‘Daddy’. We conceived naturally against all odds. One in a billion chance we were told it would happen. Doctors are great at diagnosis, but not prognosis because nothing can predict the future, not your doctor, not even your fearful thinking. Come back to the here and now, you’ll find everything you need to thrive on the journey within you in this moment.
Domar AD, et al. The Psychological Impact of Infertility: A Comparison with Patients with Other Medical Conditions. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology 14 Suppl.: pp45–52, 1993
Domar AD et al. Impact of a group mind/body intervention on pregnancy rates in IVF patients. Fertility and Sterility. Vol. 95. No 7. 2011
V. Ranganathan, V. Siemionow, J. Liu, V. Sahgal, and G. Yue, From mental power to muscle power - gaining strength by using the mind, Neuropsychologia 42. pp944–956, 2004
Levitas, E. et al. Impact of hypnosis during embryo transfer on the outcome of in vitro fertilization–embryo transfer: a case-control study. Fertility and Sterility. Vol 85. Issue 5. pp1404–1408. 2006
FOR FURTHER ADVICE, CONTACT:
Russell Davis, Fertility Cognitive Hypnotherapist, Coach, Author & Speaker, www.thefertilemind.net